Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Collision

A young man dances energetically in his dorm to the music his iPod feeds into his ears. Another young man sneaks into the room and puts up posters of Che and Kurt Cobain. The first young man doesn't notice him. The moment isn't convincing--it's an unlikely setup. In itself, this incident would be no big deal, but when it turns out to be one of the better parts of the play, we have a problem.

Nick Lawson, James Kautz
Photo: Russ Rowland
Lyle Kessler's Collision, currently receiving its premiere in an Amoralists production, examines how lost people can find each other and how a charismatic person can lead others astray. However, since neither the people nor the setups are remotely believable, or particularly compelling, Collision is ultimately about how even excellent theatre companies can have bad days.

Amoralist productions generally sizzle with human foibles and desires. Their shows, many by resident playwright, Derek Ahonen (The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side, Happy in the Poorhouse), combine highly entertaining, heightened, almost cartoony acting with an unerring sense of the absolute messiness--and wonder--of human existence. Usually, Amoralist productions, even when being totally unrealistic, are somehow true. Collision is a major exception to this rule.

In Collision, ostensibly smooth-talking Grange can convince people to do almost anything, as when he cajoles Doe, with whom he has just had sex, to go to the next bed and have sex with his roommate. Or as when he convinces that roommate to beat up someone he barely knows. The plot, such as it is, comprises a series of such incidents interspersed with "meaning of life" conversations and speeches, such as, 
This Meteor changed the course of life on this planet. One Species disappeared and another Species emerged. We emerged in all our multi colored brilliance. If that Meteor had not plunged into the ocean at that particular Time and Place, we would not exist. We would not be here at this moment discussing the Relativity of Being. So the question we are addressing today, the question I put forth today is the following...Is that Meteor, was that Meteor, God? Or was it just a random collision, a throw of the Celestial Dice?

Since the title of the show is Collision, this speech is likely thematically significant, but it doesn't matter if what transpires is God's work or a throw of the Celestial Dice. It's still boring. Oh, and unpleasant.

The show is not helped by the usually excellent James Kautz's lackluster performance in the central role of Grange. For this play to have any chance of working, Grange must be the ultimate salesman. He must be compelling, charismatic, fascinating. He must spin his verbal webs gracefully; he must entice others to enter his web voluntarily, even enthusiastically. Kautz does none of this. Granted, the writing is weak, but with some energy and personality, Kautz could have given the production a desperately needed center.

It feels unlikely that the Amoralists--and in particular, Krautz--would make these particular mistakes. Is Collision's flat falseness deliberate? Perhaps, but why?

(fifth row center; press ticket)

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